Long term alcohol use and abuse can result in significant physical and physical health difficulties. Addiction knows no barriers. It does not care if you are rich or poor, famous or unknown, employed or unemployed, religious or otherwise. Addiction can strike anyone at any time. Deciding to seek treatment can be one of the most difficult challenges one voluntarily chooses to do. Indeed, the withdrawal and detox process are not often easy, and some potentially dangerous side effects are common. It is highly recommended one goes through the withdrawal and detox process at a treatment center such as The Hills in Los Angeles, California. Despite the difficulties and challenges pertaining to detox, the results of this often lifesaving process are well documented.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
The road to sobriety and recovery involves many steps. The first of these is withdrawing and detoxing from alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal is the collection of symptoms experienced by alcoholics when they suddenly stop drinking alcohol. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from relatively mild to life-threatening. The severity of these symptoms will vary based on the individual, how much they drink, and for how long they have experienced problem drinking. Adults most commonly experience withdrawal symptoms, but adolescents and teens who have an alcohol use disorder can also experience it. It is vital for those who are regular, heavy drinkers to undergo detox at a facility like The Hills in the Los Angeles area, where they can receive medical supervision while they withdraw from alcohol.
Alcohol works as a central nervous system depressant. This means it impairs certain functions of the brain by disrupting the ability of the neurons to communicate. This is why when someone drinks too much alcohol, they often have difficulties with coordination and judgment. When someone drinks regularly, and in large amounts, their brain will start to change in response to the effects of alcohol, eventually developing a tolerance. When an individual with an alcohol addiction stops drinking, the sudden lack of alcohol in their body “shocks” the nervous system resulting in withdrawal.
What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?
Everyone who enters treatment for addiction will have a different experience. Similarly, everyone who undergoes withdrawal in detox will also experience various symptoms; however, some symptoms are shared among all individuals. These include mild symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, anxiety, irritability, and sweating. Other symptoms people may experience to varying severity include heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, and shaking and tremors.
Delirium Tremens (DTs)
The shaking and tremors experienced by someone undergoing detox are often known as delirium tremens or DTs. Delirium tremens is often present in individuals suffering from extreme alcohol withdrawal. Unfortunately, they can result in seizures, which makes them one of the more life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal. Statistics show that approximately one out of every twenty people who experience alcohol withdrawal will also experience delirium tremens. Again, they are most common among those who are severely addicted to alcohol and have experienced alcohol withdrawal in the past.
Symptoms of delirium tremens usually begin within two to three days after an individual stops drinking. If someone chooses to undergo detox without medical supervision and begins to exhibit signs of delirium tremens, it is essential to get medical help immediately. Symptoms of delirium tremens include more than just shaking and trembling. Some of the most common symptoms are fatigue, fever, hallucinations, intense confusion, and fever. In addition, severe and life-threatening seizures can also occur.
What is Alcohol Detox?
When someone experiences alcohol detox, they intentionally stop drinking to give their body time to learn how to function without alcohol. The process of detoxing from alcohol can be painful, scary, and dangerous because it requires an individual to experience the full range of withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms often cause a person to relapse because withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and sometimes debilitating. Because the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are dangerous, it is highly suggested one undergoes alcohol detox under medical supervision at a rehab facility such as The Hills in Southern California. Those who detox without medical monitoring and assistance are at a higher risk for severe medical problems.
Conversely, those who detox with medical supervision are more likely to Go through the process successfully and safely. Although detox is unpleasant, it is a necessary first step for anyone who wants to achieve sobriety and recover from alcoholism. After detox is over, a person in recovery can begin therapy in a treatment program.
The Detox Timeline
The First Twenty-Four Hours
Most symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are present within six hours after the person has their last drink. Symptoms will often present as mild and intensify after two or three days. The withdrawal cycle typically lasts for about one week.
During the first twelve hours of the detox process, a person may start sweating. They may also become increasingly irritable and experience nausea and vomiting. As their body continues to work to flush alcohol from their system, they may also experience elevated blood pressure and accelerated heart rate. These symptoms can be especially dangerous for individuals with pre-existing blood pressure and heart conditions. Other symptoms that commonly arise during the first twelve hours consist of withdrawal-induced insomnia and tremors.
Twenty-Four to Forty-Eight Hours
After twenty-four to forty-eight hours, withdrawal-related symptoms will begin to worsen and intensify. For those who experience severe withdrawal as a result of chronic, heavy drinking, severe, and potentially life-threatening symptoms related to delirium tremens will begin to occur. These symptoms will be characterized by seizures, shaking, and hallucinations.
Days Three, Four, and Five
During the third, fourth, and fifth days of detox, emotional distress and delirium tremens may continue. After the fifth day, many of the physical symptoms of withdrawal begin to subside; however, the psychological and emotional symptoms often continue for some time. Some individuals will continue to experience difficulties sleeping, anxiety, and irritability for weeks or months after completing detox and treatment.
The Detox Process
As noted previously, alcohol detox is the first step in a challenging road to recovery. Despite these challenges, though, the future successes of those who have successfully conquered addiction are plentiful. Detox is the process required to adequately prepare for a more prolonged and more intensive treatment program. Detox can be safely performed in either an inpatient or outpatient setting; however, consistent 24/7 monitoring is essential for heavy drinkers. In most cases, the detox process involves three steps.
When you arrive at a treatment facility like The Hills, your medical team will conduct a comprehensive evaluation. This will include questions and discussions regarding drug, medical and psychiatric histories, and any other items that may be of concern related to your treatment.
Many medically supervised detox programs include medications that can be administered to mimic the effects of alcohol on the body. This helps to mitigate and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Medications may also help ease the symptoms of any toll occurring disorders and reduce the general discomfort associated with withdrawal.
As detox and withdrawal progress, the individual also undergoes medical and psychological therapies designed to help them reach a balance of their emotional and physical states.
Side Effects of Alcohol Detox
Medically assisted detox is designed to limit some of the adverse effects one experiences during detox. Unfortunately, some of these remain unavoidable. Side effects will often appear during two phases of alcohol detox.
Phase 1: Acute Alcohol Withdrawal
Phase one of withdrawal occurs within hours of an alcoholic taking their last drink and can continue for days or even weeks. This is also the point where the most serious and potentially dangerous side effects occur.
Phase 2: During Early Abstinence
The second and more extended detox phase occurs over the months while the individual works to achieve sobriety and recovery. During this time, the brain slowing regulates and returns to “normal” functioning without the need for alcohol. This stage is also known as post-acute withdrawal.
Drugs Used During Alcohol Detox
A vital part of the detox process involves helping the person experiencing symptoms keep their system in balance and avoiding significant upsets to the body physiology. Sometimes, medications are necessary to accomplish this. A variety of benzodiazepines (including valium and Ativan) are commonly used for alcohol treatment as they reduce withdrawal symptoms and help prevent withdrawal-related seizures. Seizures are one of the most common causes of fatality in alcohol withdrawal. Due to this, additional anti-convulsant medications are often used as part of the treatment plan as well.
Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal During Detox
No one should attempt to detox from alcohol alone. Medical professionals such as those at The Hills in Los Angeles, California, are equipped to help people with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They can also monitor essential vitals such as blood pressure, hydration, and heart rate to ensure potentially fatal conditions do not develop. Also, recovery centers have a highly trained team of therapy providers and counselors available to talk to patients and help them manage the emotional changes that come with detox.
Detox is only the first step in treatment for those who are trying to overcome their addiction to alcohol. It is also the most important and likely the most challenging step they will make as they pursue sobriety and recovery. Detox helps to clear the mind and body from the immediate effects of alcohol so individuals can successfully pursue and complete treatment for their addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, don’t wait to seek treatment. The longer one is addicted to alcohol, the more difficult and potentially dangerous detox can be. If treatment is the next step, contact The Hills today.